It may be hard to believe, but the alliance between NASCAR’s most successful race team and it’s most popular driver started with a truck race and a napkin.
“I had been fortunate enough to be invited on a trip with Kenny Schrader around the Midwest,” Dale Earnhardt, Jr. recalled the story at the announcement he would drive for Hendrick Motorsports in 2007. “That was the first time I’d ever met Rick (Hendrick) and he was introduced to me and said ‘have you got a contract to drive for anybody?’ I wasn’t even racing. I thought it was a joke. He wrote down on a napkin, wrote a contract on a napkin and I signed it.”
It’s an interesting story right? And one that actually has its roots right here in the state of Kansas, because it happened while the NASCAR trucks were racing at Heartland Park in Topeka.
“I remember Dale and I sitting in Schrader’s bus and I said you want to be a race car driver and he said yes,” said Hendrick. “And I said lets go ahead and do a deal and he signed it.”
Earnhardt was 14 at the time. Twenty five years later, the alliance with Hendrick has helped Junior to one of the best seasons of his career. The 88 team has three wins, and is currently second in the Chase for the Championship standings.
“We laugh about it now, “ said Hendrick. “I wish we could find the napkin, but we didn’t keep the napkin.”
For Junior and his legions of fans, giving the sport’s most popular drive his first Sprint Cup Series title would be an even better memento.